Chase Elliott-Kevin Harvick feud flares again at Roval with two wrecks and terse words

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CONCORD, N.C. – After their feud erupted again in stunning reversals of fortune Sunday at the Roval, Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick didn’t say much — but their few words were pointed.

“As far as Kevin goes, just want to wish them a merry offseason and a happy Christmas,” Elliott told NBC Sports pit reporter Dave Burns after he advanced to the Round of 8 with an impressive drive to 12th after being wrecked by Harvick midway through the second-round cutoff race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course.

It was the latest flashpoint in what has become the most heated rivalry in NASCAR’s premier series this season with taunts being hurled between their cars being wrecked.

Elliott has said his problems with racing against Harvick date back years. The most consequential happened last month at Bristol Motor Speedway — Elliott suffered a cut tire after contact with Harvick and then impeded the leader’s progress, leaving Harvick feeling robbed of a victory.

Was Harvick retaliating for Bristol by punting Elliott at the Roval?

“Sometimes real life teaches you good lessons,” Harvick cryptically told NBC Sports’ Parker Kligerman after being eliminated from the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs when he crashed with 10 laps remaining.

He later added, “You remember Bristol” when asked if the Elliott wreck was payback.

So were they even? Harvick smiled and stepped away without answering one of the five questions he took in two brief interviews with NBC and PRN outside the care center.

The timing of his crash – Harvick locked up the left-front tire on his No. 4 Ford and slammed into the Turn 1 barrier with Elliott’s No. 9 Chevrolet about 50 feet behind – precluded another chapter in the feud. Elliott and crew members had discussed wrecking Harvick on their team radio.

Elliott said “I’m not sure” when asked if he would have wrecked Harvick if he’d gotten to him before the crash.

But that was about all the defending Cup Series champion was willing to say after climbing from his battered Camaro and checking out the damage to his right rear before exchanging fist bumps with crew chief Alan Gustafson and other team members.

“I’m excited to be moving on, and that’s all that matters to me,” Elliott said with a smile after the third question about Harvick. “You’re not getting anything else, so you might as well quit.”

The questions still came, though.

Was the feud over with Harvick?

“I’m headed to Texas next week, focusing on my job.”

Did Harvick experience karma?

“I’m headed to Texas next week to focus on my job.

So you’re done talking about it?

“I’m certainly not talking about it right here,” said Elliott, who then thanked reporters and ended the group interview.

Rick Hendrick, whose team had two drivers advance in the playoffs with Elliott and race winner Kyle Larson while Hendrick Motorsports drivers William Byron and Alex Bowman were eliminated, said he wants NASCAR to intervene in the Harvick-Elliott feud because “they’re the only ones that can really stop it. I hope they do because the crew chiefs and everybody can do the best they can, but it’s up to the drivers themselves. I’ve been in this situation before. NASCAR can handle it.”

Hendrick was the team owner for Geoffrey Bodine during a 1980s rivalry with Dale Earnhardt. That feud featured enough intentional wrecks by Bodine and Earnhardt to trigger a famous meeting with NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr. that inspired a “Days of Thunder” plotline.

“I hope it’s over,” Hendrick said Sunday. “We don’t want to race that way. We want to just race. That’s not our style. If a guy is better than you, he wins. Just do your job. If you get beat, you get beat. It never feels good to push somebody out of the way. I mean, a little rubbing or something, that’s OK. But just to wreck somebody, that’s not good.”

Hendrick said Elliott “willed to get that car up there” after the impact from the Turn 7 spin destroyed the rear of his car and required major repairs to the decklid and bumper cover.

Despite the damage, Elliott’s team managed to stay on the lead lap and then caught a major break when a caution flew for his bumper cover flying off his car on Lap 87.

“Our team did a really good job of putting our car back together,” Elliott said. “That was really the bottom line. They just took the allotted amount of time to fix it properly, not have any more tire rubs and not cut a tire down to end our day completely.

“Got the caution and was able to keep fighting so just really proud of that. We could have easily given up or not fixed it to the proper standard and have something break or have a tire rub, so everybody just did a really good job with that. Proud of that. It was a really fast car, and I thought we had a shot to win. Obviously that didn’t happen, but in the grand scheme, that was the most important thing, and our season is still alive. Super excited about that. Excited for three more weeks and another opportunity to win a championship.”

Elliott wasn’t the only driver at the Roval displeased with Harvick, who entered the race nine points behind the cut line for advancement.

“(Harvick) was about running over everybody,” Kyle Busch said. “He didn’t make every many friends out there today. That just kind of goes to show what you’ve got to do in these races. It doesn’t matter whose feelings you hurt and what’s going to come back on you next week. We saw it with me last year: (Harvick) dumped me at Martinsville. Can’t say that I’ve been guilty of that yet. There’s some dirty dudes out there.”

Dustin Long contributed to this story

Sammy Smith to run full Xfinity season for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2023

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Sammy Smith will run the full Xfinity schedule in the No. 18 car, Joe Gibbs Racing announced Monday.

The 18-year-old Smith, a Toyota development driver, won the ARCA Menards Series East title for a second consecutive year in 2022 and also made nine Xfinity starts with JGR.

Pilot Flying J, TMC Transportation and Allstate Peterbilt will be sponsors on Smith’s car throughout the 2023 season. Jeff Meendering will be Smith’s crew chief.

“This is an opportunity I have been working towards,” Smith said in a statement from the team. “I can’t wait to get behind the wheel full-time and am looking forward to a great season. I learned a lot in 2022 that will really help me to be competitive and run up front in the Xfinity Series. Thank you to Pilot Flying J, TMC Transportation, Allstate Peterbilt Group, and Toyota Racing Development for supporting me in my racing career. I am excited for next year and appreciate the opportunity.”

Said Steve DeSouza, JGR executive vice president of Xfinity Series and driver development, in a statement: “Sammy is a fantastic addition to our 2023 Xfinity lineup. He proved to have the passion and the talent to necessary to compete for wins in the races he ran for us in 2022,” .“We are excited to get him in the No. 18 full time and know he will be competitive from the jump.”

NASCAR Power Rankings: Racing through the numbers

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Some drivers carry one car number throughout their racing careers. The most famous racers in NASCAR’s 75-year history typically are associated with one number, although some have raced under several.

Victories, championships and driver personalities give life to something as generally mundane as a number. And the most popular produce even bigger numbers, as in sales of T-shirts, caps and other souvenirs.

Here’s a look at 10 of the most iconic NASCAR numbers:

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. 43 — Since Richard Petty’s emergence as a superstar in the 1960s, the number 43 has been NASCAR’s most iconic. Although Lee Petty, Richard’s father, usually drove No. 42, he actually scored the first win by the 43, in 1959. The Petty blue No. 43 carried Richard to a string of championships. He scored 192 of his 200 race wins with the number. It rolls on today with Erik Jones, who took the 43 to the Southern 500 victory lane this season.

2. 3 — The fiercely facing forward No. 3 became ultra-famous while driven by seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt (although Earnhardt won his first title driving the No. 2). Earnhardt’s black Chevrolet carried the number to new heights, but Fireball Roberts, David Pearson, Junior Johnson, Buck Baker, Buddy Baker and Ricky Rudd, among others, also won in the car.

MORE: Where are they now? Buddy Parrott

3. 21 — The list of drivers who have raced Wood Brothers Racing’s famous No. 21, with the familiar gold foil numbers, reads like a history of NASCAR. David Pearson brought the most fame to the number, but Tim Flock, Curtis Turner, team owner Glen Wood, Cale Yarborough, A.J. Foyt, Donnie Allison, Neil Bonnett and Dale Jarrett also have driven the 21.

4. 11 — This number is responsible for more race wins — 228 — than any other. It also has scored eight championships — three each by Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough and two by Ned Jarrett. Other stars in the 11 over the years: Junior Johnson, Bobby Allison, A.J. Foyt, Terry Labonte, Geoffrey Bodine, Bill Elliott and Denny Hamlin. And some guy named Mario Andretti.

5. 48 — This number was largely ignored until the arrival of Jimmie Johnson, who carried it to seven championships, including five in a row.

6. 24 — The number 24 was a lonely number until 1994 when a kid named Jeff Gordon drove it to its first win, in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The brightly colored 24 became a regular visitor to victory lane from that point forward, carrying Gordon to four championships and becoming one of NASCAR’s most decorated numbers.

MORE: Will Kyle Busch follow footsteps of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning?

7. 18 — Although Dale Jarrett and Bobby Labonte won in the 18, Kyle Busch, draped in the bright colors of sponsor M&Ms, took it into new territory.

8. 22 — NASCAR’s first Cup champion (Red Byron) and its most recent (Joey Logano) rode with the 22. The number has produced 87 wins over the years, including victories by Fireball Roberts, Bobby Allison, Ward Burton, Kurt Busch, Byron and Logano.

9. 2 — Although the 2 carried Dale Earnhardt (1980) and Brad Keselowski (2012) to Cup championships, it is perhaps most identified with Rusty Wallace, whose menacing black No. 2 was powerful at Team Penske. Also successful in the 2: Bill Blair, Kurt Busch and Austin Cindric, this year’s Daytona 500 winner.

10. 9 — The 9 was basically nondescript until Bill Elliott roared out of the north Georgia mountains to turn it into a big winner in the mid-1980s. His son, Chase, continues the trend.

 

 

Truck Series: Rajah Caruth joins GMS Racing

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Rajah Caruth will drive the No. 24 truck full-time for GMS Racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2023, the team announced Tuesday.

The 20-year-old Caruth ran a full season in the ARCA Menards Series last year, placing third in points. He also made seven Xfinity starts and four Truck starts last year. 

“I am extremely honored, and really excited to join GMS Racing and be in the fold of a professional race team with so much history,” Caruth said in a statement from the team. “I’ve been waiting for an opportunity like this throughout my whole career, and I’m going to do the best in my power to make the most of it.

“First and foremost, I can’t thank everybody at GMS enough for believing in me and believing that I have what it takes to drive one of their trucks. Same goes for everybody at Chevrolet for their support, we truly wouldn’t be able to make this happen without them. 

Caruth joins Grant Enfinger and Daniel Dye as GMS Racing’s full-time Craftsman Truck Series drivers. Chad Walter will be Caruth’s crew chief. Jeff Hensley will be Enfinger’s crew chief. Travis Sharpe will be Dye’s crew chief. 

The primary partner on Caruth’s truck will be the Wendell Scott Foundation. The foundation, named for the first Black driver to win a NASCAR Cup race, seeks to provide resources and services to underprivileged Black youth communities near Scott’s hometown of Danville, Virginia. Since the foundation’s formation in 2011, more than 25 students have been awarded more than $50,000 from the Wendell Scott Legacy Scholarship programs.

“We are excited for Rajah to compete full-time with GMS Racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2023,” said Dayne Pierantoni, GM Racing Program Manager for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. “Through Chevrolet’s partnership with Rev Racing, we have been impressed with Rajah’s talent both on and off the track. He has proven his ability to compete at the NASCAR national level, and we look forward to seeing his continued success with a series championship winning team.”

The Truck season begins Feb. 17 at Daytona International Speedway. 

In other Truck Series news:

Dean Thompson will drive the No. 5 for TRICON Garage this coming season. The 21-year-old was a rookie in the series this past season. He had a season-best finish of 11th at Las Vegas.

“I am thrilled to start the next chapter of my career with TRICON Garage and Toyota Racing Development,” Thompson said in a statement from the team. “The team and manufacturer have quickly made a statement in the Truck Series as striving to be the best of the best. I’m ready to take on the challenge and live up to the expectations of being a driver for TRICON.”

McAnally Hilgemann Racing announced Tuesday that Christian Eckes and Jake Garcia will drive full-time in the Truck series for the team next season.

Eckes, who will drive the No. 19 truck, moves over from ThorSport Racing. Garcia will drive the No. 35 truck in pursuit of the series Rookie of the Year award.

NAPA AutoCare will continue as a team sponsor.

Garcia is 17 and is scheduled to make his first start March 3 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Because of NASCAR’s age restrictions, he will miss the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. The team’s Daytona driver has not been announced.

Sponsor adds more races in 2023 with Josh Berry

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Jarrett Companies will increase the number of races it will sponsor Josh Berry‘s No. 8 JR Motorsports ride in 2023, the Xfinity Series team announced Monday.

Jarrett Companies will sponsor Berry in six races after serving as the primary sponsor in three races in 2022. Those six races will be Phoenix (March 11), Richmond (April 1), Dover (April 29), Atlanta (July 8), Indianapolis (Aug. 12) and Texas (Sept. 23).

The deal gives Berry at least 26 races with sponsorship for next season. Bass Pro Shops will serve as the primary sponsor of Berry’s car in 11 races in 2023. Tire Pros is back with JRM and will sponsor Berry in nine races in the upcoming season.

Berry, who reached the Xfinity title race and finished fourth in the points, will have a new crew chief in 2023. Taylor Moyer will take over that role with Mike Bumgarner serving as JRM’s director of competition.

The 2023 Xfinity season begins Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway.